Brian Van Pelt leaned a little closer, let the fragrance and warmth of the woman next to him encompass him in a cocoon of illusion. For a moment he could believe that there was still beauty and joy in the world. Even though the woman, a client, was almost a stranger, he was drawn to seek some kind of comfort, however broken and unreal it was. His sense of isolation and hopelessness was pushed away for that brief moment.
A movement just beyond them, in the hallway into his law office, drew his attention and the terrible, desperate truth slammed into him.
It was Jennifer, his soon to be ex-wife. He swallowed the breath of shock and shut his heart away. He couldn’t afford to let it crack open, not even a little, or he would shatter into fragments that could never be put together again. He raised his eyes to hers and stiffened his resolve, looked her up and down in what he hoped was a disinterested, dismissive gaze. He pushed away the wisps of emotions from their decade of marriage together.
She looked like he felt, and a little empathy pushed back. Her face was puffy and red from crying. Her brown eyes, always before so warm and clear and full of love for him, brimmed with tears and pain. She was dressed in jeans and a sloppy shirt, comfortable and homey, and an ache to hold her and be held by her threatened his resolve.
He curled his lip into a forced sneer.
She would not tolerate his scorn, even though it was a thin façade over what he really felt. She raised her chin, straightened her shoulders, and somewhere found some of the dignity her mother’s people were so famous for. Without a word, she fanned the papers in her hand, raised them high over her head, then let go. As they drifted toward the floor, they spread, going their separate ways. She turned on her heel and headed back the way she’d come. She didn’t say a word.
“How odd. Do you know her?”
Brian struggled to pull breath into his lungs, to steady his nerves so he could respond with the expected nonchalance. “A client — one who isn’t particularly pleased with her divorce settlement.” He stepped back with what he hoped was a light chuckle. “I’d better get them filed before she changes her mind.”
He started toward the drifted papers. He wanted to run from the building and find Jen, crush her to him, tell her he had been a fool and that this was all wrong.
Instead he bent and shuffled the pages into a stack, slanted a wry smile at his co-worker and headed to his office. He closed the door…
…and sank back against it, closed his eyes against the pain. He rubbed his hand over his face before he straightened and went to his desk, where the check and envelop to file the divorce papers were the top thing on the stack of work to do. He pulled the envelop toward him, dropped everything inside, sealed it shut.
Sealed the coffin that held the remains of his marriage.
Out of Agony picks up where Finding Her Voice left off, and tells the story of the other parent devastated by the loss of their daughter. Available soon. Check out my author page for more Starting Over stories.